Planning and preparing your business for Christmas shut down

Planning and preparing your business for Christmas shut down

It’s a busy time of the year for many businesses as they look to meet final deadlines and round off the business year.

And with Christmas just around the corner, it’s important that business leaders plan for a controlled Christmas shut down.

This is a great time to relax and take a breather from work, but in order to really switch off from your business it pays to do a little planning ahead first.

Why a controlled Christmas shutdown is important?

With everyone eager for some time off, it’s important to make sure that all equipment and lighting is switched off. However, the way in which you shut down equipment may impact business when you start up again in January.

If shutdown is not done properly you may face issues on the first day back in the New Year, which will result in lost productivity.

This can easily be avoided with some forward thinking. Properly shut down your production line including all equipment such as computers, printers and other machinery as well as data equipment.

By undemanding how different pieces of equipment and systems interact (i.e. what happens to A and B when I switch off C?) you’ll understand how everything interacts. This will help you produce a shutdown sequence to follow on the last day of operation.

Directing employees to take annual leave

One thing all employees want to know is when their holiday starts, and ends.

As the leader of a small business, you should direct your employees to take annual leave during shutdown – this is of course if their contract agreement allows them to do so.

If there was no agreement or your employee isn’t entitled to take leave, you can direct them to take annual leave if the direction is reasonable.

Working during shut down

If employees are required to work during a business shut down, they should continue to be paid as per normal. However, if any of the days are public holidays (e.g. Christmas day) – your employee should be given the day off without loss of pay or they should be paid public holiday rates.

If an employee does not have enough annual leave to cover shut down, they have the option to take unpaid leave. However, no employee can be forced to take unpaid leave during shut down

Having an open conversation with your team is the most effective way to ensure the best outcome for your business and a happy working environment.

Other tasks to complete before shut down

There are a few productivity steps that will help you prepare your business for shutdown:

Payments – Stay on top of your accounts and follow up any payments ahead of holiday shut down.

Schedule content – e.g. marketing businesses can schedule content for their websites and social media channels to post while on holiday. This will maintain online visibility.

Set an Out of Office email – personalise your automatic replies and make sure you include important information like when you will be returning in 2018 and who to contact in an emergency.

Finally it’s a good idea to start planning ahead for the New Year before you return to work. By planning and setting goals for your business, you’ll head into 2018 with more focus and purpose.


Also read: Choosing the right office space for your business



6 ways to make your small business more environmentally friendly

ways to make your small business more environmentally friendly

Businesses that make a commitment to more environmentally friendly practices can benefit from both short-term and long-term savings, better employee engagement and significant PR opportunities.

While you may have a general idea of ways to go green, you might be wondering what are some business-specific green practices?

Here are 6 easy-to-implement ideas for running a green business that you can put into practice right now to make your workplace more environmentally friendly.

1.Power down

Turn off equipment when it’s not being used. Leaving our computers on at the end of the day is a bad habit many of us are guilty of.

What you might not know, is that by turning devices off, you can reduce energy used by 25 per cent.Switching computers off at the end of the day can save you an additional 50 per cent!

2. Switch Lights off

Did you know lighting could account for up to 40 per cent of an office’s energy consumption?

By turning lights off at the end of the day or installing motion-sensitive switches you can conserve energy and save money.

3. Recycle

It’s not just about recycling containers. Some great recycling programs to implement in your small business include:

  • Educating employees on how to recycle correctly and explain how different materials find new uses.
  • Set personal recycling goals, such as reaching a 50% recycling rate in 3 months to motivate your team.

4. Cut down paper wastage

Try creating a more paperless office and encourage employees to make use of technology instead of printing. Some paper saving approaches include:

  • Reducing font size when printing
  • Encouraging communications by email
  • Producing double-sided documents

5. Remote working

Allow certain employees to work from home, part-time, to reduce commuting costs. For employees that need to be on site or in the office, try promoting eco-friendly commuting options by subsidising their transport costs.

6. Get involved

Creating a green business is a commitment. Apart from setting up an eco-friendly workplace, encourage participation in green events. Try getting involved in events that everyone in the office can participate in:

  • Devoting one workday each quarter to helping green causes
  • Community clean up days

Running a green business is not only good for the environment, but also for your business. Cutting down on waste and conserving resources saves you money.

Going green is also a great way to boost your team’s morale, and once your business commits to creating a more environmentally friendly enterprise, you may find employees present more creative ideas around the subject.

Make use of the resources already available for you and keep your team motivated around greener practices in the workplace.

Also read: Energy use in industry: electricity and energy manufacturing

Hainan airlines biofuel flight airplane

Berlin, Germany - August 17, 2014: Hainan Airlines Airbus A330 arrives to the Tegel International Airport.

If you’ve never heard of Hainan Airlines, chances are good that you’ll be hearing more about them from the media in the future. That’s because this China-based airline – the fourth largest in the country – has just completed its first intercontinental flight in a Boeing 787-8 (from China to the U.S.) using biofuel produced from used cooking oil from restaurants in China! The flight travelled an astonishing 11,000+ kilometers (6,835 miles) using sustainable biofuel.

First reported by Xinhua New Agency, the flight is a milestone for the airline, which was established in 1989 under the name “Hainan Province Airlines”. (They’ve previously flown domestic biofuel passenger flights using a Boeing 737-800. The first of these was launched in 2015.) This latest International biofuel flight was part of a green aviation project between China and the U.S.

What is Biofuel?

Biofuel is an energy source produced directly or indirectly from organic material, also known as biomass. It can include both solids and liquids. Biofuels are derived from several different sources including:

  • food plants
  • forestry products
  • agricultural products
  • fisheries
  • municipal waste products
  • food industry by-products and waste (like the used cooking oil used by Hainan Airlines)

There are two types of biofuels – primary and secondary. Primary biofuels are things like wood, wood chips and pellets, manure, etc. These are used in their original, unprocessed form. Secondary biofuels are what result from the processing of biomass. They include liquid fuels like ethanol and biodiesel, which can be used to power vehicles and machinery. (The biofuel used in Hainan Airlines’ domestic – and first intercontinental – flights is, therefore, a form of secondary biofuel.)

Bio-energy, which is energy produced using biofuels, is mainly used in homes (80%), to a much smaller extent in industry (18%) and are currently used very infrequently in their liquid form in transportation (2%).*

What are its Benefits?

Biofuel’s true benefits lie in the fact that it’s produced from sustainable (replaceable) sources, unlike traditional fossil fuels which are finite. It’s also easy to transport, just as most fossil fuels are today, which is one of the advantages it has over other forms of sustainable energy such as solar power, which is difficult to distribute.

How Biofuel is Produced

Liquid biofuels used in transportation are produced by separating two substances found within the cells of plants. One of these is lignin and the other is cellulose (made from sugar molecules). In order to convert the cellulose into glucose, which can then be fermented to produce alcohol, which in turn produces bio-energy, the lignin must be removed because it hampers or restricts the extraction of cellulose. Unfortunately, the current methods of accomplishing this feat are energy-consuming and not environmentally-friendly at this point.

The Future of Biofuel

The good news is that scientists and researchers from several different countries are working in collaboration with one another to solve the problem of extracting the cement-like lignin from plants to make accessing cellulose easier without expending lots of energy to do it. In recent years, these scientists have identified a new enzyme lignin biosynthetic pathway, which they’ve dubbed caffeoyl shikimate esterase, or CSE for short. They’ve discovered that by removing this enzyme, they can significantly reduce the amount of lignin in the plant material. What’s more, doing so alters the structure of the remaining lignin, making the cellulose extraction process less energy-intensive.

There are still problems though. Scientists know that traditional crops used to produce biofuels — such as corn, which produces ethanol – take a lot of space to grow, and impact food production as well. They’re currently studying different plant sources that can result in more biofuel from less space and without interrupting or

Also read: UK driving hard to promote driverless cars

Tesla mega-battery activated in South Australia

Tesla mega-battery activated in South Australia

The largest lithium battery in the world has now begun dispensing power into an electricity grid in Southern Australia.

Built by Tesla, the 100-megawatt battery was activated on 1 December, and in fact provided some power the day before this due to the demand of local hot weather.

In recent times, South Australia has been crippled with electricity problems and Tesla boss Elon Musk had vowed to build the battery within 100 days – a promise that was fulfilled.

“This is history in the making,” said South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill.

The battery will counter a repeat of an incident South Australia experienced last year, where the entire state lost power and Mr Musk has described it as three times more powerful than the world’s next biggest battery.

The idea originally came about after a bet on Twitter when Mr Musk was asked if he was serious about resolving South Australia’s electricity woes.

Mr Musk added to this challenge and said that if the battery wasn’t built within 100 days, the state would receive it for free.

The countdown began on 30 September after the Australian government and regulators approved the plan. Tesla managed to build the battery in roughly 60 days.

The battery can now be found near Jamestown, about 200km (125 miles) north of Adelaide, and is connected to a wind farm run by French energy company Neoen.

When fully charged, the battery is able to power as many as 30 000 homes for an hour, however, it’s most likely that the battery will be used to support and stabilise existing electricity supplies.

The battery is made up of a grid system that runs on the same technology that powers Tesla’s cars.

In a statement, Tesla said the completion of the battery “shows that a sustainable, effective energy solution is possible”.

Also read: Renewables set to replace gas as South Australia’s main source of electricity




Image source: Gizmodo

The benefits of pets in the workplace


While there are many reasons for having a pet, not the least of which being that they offer significant health benefits to people – pets in the workplace can also create benefits for both employers and employees.

The pet population in the UK is an estimated 54 million, with dogs being the most popular pet, owned by 24 per cent of people.

In the past, pets in the workplace have been seen as an employee-only benefit, however factors that positively affect employees have a connection with improved office morale, absenteeism and a healthy work-life balance.

Pet care company, Purina believes that pets and people are better together and can create happier workplaces.

Since 2003, Purina has welcomed pets into their offices, and they have also carried out research with other companies who have experienced the benefits of bringing pets together in the workplace.

Some key finding include:

  • 40% of people with pets at work say it enhances work-life balance
  • 24% of people with pets at work say it improves relationships in the workplace
  • 45% of people with pets at work say it creates a more relaxed environment
  • 50% of employees with pets at work see it as a benefit


Having pets at work can also reduce stress, promote happiness and increase collaboration. Watch Purina’s video to find out more about the benefits of pets in the workplace.

A number of well-known companies such as Google, Ben & Jerry’s and Amazon already welcome dogs into their corporate headquarters and this may be something more organisations will allow in the future.

Also read: Pets in the workplace: why an office dog is a good idea


Image source: fthmb

UK driving hard to promote driverless cars


Britain is one of the leading nations in the drive towards creating a driverless car society. The benefits of automated vehicles are increased safety, more economical, and better for the environment. This is why the UK has decided to invest more in the whole idea.

In an article posted by the BBC, Chancellor Philip Hammond said in an interview that the plan is to have “fully driverless cars” in use by 2021. A fully driverless vehicle doesn’t need to be monitored by anyone on board and, in some cases, might not even have a human passenger at all, such as a delivery vehicle.

Hammond told the BBC, “Some would say that’s a bold move, but we have to embrace these technologies if we want the UK to lead the next industrial revolution.” Additionally, he was asked the hard question that everyone everywhere seems to be posing when topics of automation come into the spotlight: “What about all those drivers losing jobs?” Answering quite honestly, he said that Britain cannot hide from change and the government would take up the responsibility to equip its citizens with the necessary skills “to take up new careers”.

What are some of the big benefits of driverless vehicles

When you really sit down and think about it, commercial airliners have been automated for decades now. As a matter of fact, commercial airliners can even land themselves when visibility is too low for the pilot to safely land the plane.

For the most part, aeroplanes have been getting us from A to B virtually 100 percent automated for a long time now. Even container ships and cruise boats propel themselves most of the way with very minimal assistance from a captain or crew.

If we can accept the fact that a computer is flying us 40,000 feet above the ground at 550mph in a 400 tonne Jumbo Jet, then isn’t it time we begin to accept driverless cars? Admittedly, it’s less frightening to think of.

Some of the most noteworthy benefits of driverless cars are:

  • The roads will be safer. Volvo’s Senior Technical Leader for Safety and Driver Support Technologies, Erik Coelingh, told Business Insider it’s pretty difficult to find any other way to make the roads safer other than through vehicle automation technology.
  • Fewer traffic problems. Driverless cars are inherently designed to be more efficient. This means they will not make the mistakes human drivers make, which in turn will help decrease traffic.
  • More fuel-efficient. Self-driving cars optimise acceleration and braking, which in turn makes for better traffic flow. These things added together equal less fuel consumption overall. It’s said that adopting driverless vehicles could reduce CO² emissions by 300 million tonnes per year.
  • More free time. Ever had one of those mornings when you’re late to work but you need to finish typing something up? You need to leave now! But you need to type this, too! Then you think, “Wish the car drove itself so I could finish this and be on the way.” Well, having a driverless car will solve such dilemmas

What About Driverless Car Morality

As of now, no one, not the car companies or the lawmakers, has decided who should be at risk if, let’s say, you walk in the middle of the street without looking and the car must decide who lives: you or its passengers. According to a study done by Jean-Francois Bonnefon from the University of Toulouse, it seems that most of the public unanimously choose to live and let you get mowed down. I’m sure you would be opposed to that.

Bonnefon said that setting regulations on automated vehicles from a government level may be the only way to solve this dilemma since it doesn’t matter which position you’re in, no one really wants to sacrifice their own life willingly, especially if there are loved ones in the vehicle. Nevertheless, he also warned that by starting such debates on the government level could mean stalling progress in the development of driverless cars.

Professor Toby Walsh, from the Australian data innovation group Data61, had this to say as well:  “The biggest ethical question then becomes: How quickly should we move towards full automation given that we have a technology that potentially could save a lot of people, but is going to be imperfect and is going to kill a few?”

Tesla unveils an Electric lorry!


Who would have thought that Tesla, under the leadership of Elon Musk, would decide that it’s a good idea to get into the business of haulage — and in an electric truck, no less! Yet that’s exactly what Mr. Musk had in mind when he unveiled Tesla’s brand new, one-of-a-kind electric truck on November 16, 2017!

A Sign of the Times?

With global warming and preservation of the planet on the minds of so many, an electric truck actually makes pretty good sense. After all, over-the-road freight hauling is still the number one way goods are delivered to stores and businesses all over the world. Unfortunately, they’re also huge emitters of greenhouse gases.

In the U.S., big rig semi-truck trailers are by far the leading contributors for several reasons. Ironically, even as emission rules and standards have tightened on automobiles, there are more diesel-chugging big rigs on the road than ever before.

Compounding the problem is the fact that many of these trucks are older models, that are less fuel-efficient than their newer counterparts. (In the U.S., the average truck gets only 6 miles to the gallon and produces higher concentrations of pollution than cars.

According to Greenpeace, the haulage industry as it’s currently operating is “consuming more fuel than any other, while burning that fuel with the least efficiency”! Even when drivers stop for the night, they often leave their trucks idling, meaning that they keep spouting harmful CO2 emissions whether they’re on the road or not!

Tesla’s Answer

Tesla’s new electric lorry aims to change the haulage industry in a big way, and even though the trucks won’t go into production until 2019, they’ve already had an order for 15 test trucks from retail giant Walmart — 5 for its U.S. operations and 10 for its Canadian fleet.

The new truck — the prototype of which was unveiled in Hawthorne, California — promises to significantly reduce emissions if it catches on, as Tesla believes it will. Why? Tesla claims that its new electric semi-truck, powered by a battery and almost self-driving, will be less expensive to operate than the current diesel-sippers that dominate the roadways today.

Tesla claims that its new electric truck will have a charging range of 500 miles – more than enough to serve the trucking industry, whose typical trip averages 250 miles. Furthermore, the new truck can go from 0 to 60 mph in an astonishing 5 seconds without a trailer, and in just 20 seconds when towing a fully-loaded trailer! (That’s less than a third of the more than 1 minute it currently takes most semis to get up to speed on the highway!)

Because the truck is more efficient and has fewer moving parts (no engine, transmission or drive shaft) than the trucks it plans to replace, Tesla says, it will require less maintenance, and be cheaper to operate.

The Tesla truck is powered by a huge battery that sits beneath the cab plus two electric motors that turn the truck’s rear wheels. The combination of faster acceleration and higher uphill speeds will enable it to cover more miles in less time than an average diesel truck does.

What About Charging?

To accommodate charging needs, Tesla plans to install what they call “megacharger stations” across the country, where drivers can take a 1/2 hour break while their trucks’ batteries recharge. (No word on whether those charging stations will include anything like a truck-stop diner or showers like many traditional truck stops do, however.)

State-of-the-Art Technology

In typical Tesla fashion, the new truck has a cab that’s large enough for a person to stand up in. The driver’s seat is located on neither the left nor the right side, but instead sits in the centre of the cab. Sitting on either side of the driver’s seat are two large display screens to provide scheduling and navigation data, as well as allowing for blind spot elimination and views of the area around the truck.

The driver’s seat, says Fortune Magazine contributor, Kirsten Korosec, is quite comfortable and “bouncy”, and there are plenty of cup holders and areas for storage, as well as a somewhat “stiffer, less comfortable” seat located behind the driver.

The New York Times also reports on the truck’s autopilot feature, which can automatically steer, speed up and hit the brakes for other vehicles or obstacles, although drivers still have to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the steering wheel while using the feature.

Here’s the real surprise, though: Musk claims that the new vehicle can go 1 million miles before it needs service. Can he deliver on that promise? Only time will tell!

1O business lessons that can be learned from cricket

business and cricket

Cricket is far more than a game – and many business leaders will agree with this statement.

Why? The rules of cricket remind us that audacious moves, thrilling tactics and bold decisions need to be in place to succeed.

Cricket is a complete pack of passion, discipline, planning, teamwork, leadership and more.

Here are 10 business lessons you can learn from watching cricket:

the ashes_cricket_business

With the Ashes taking place once again this year, viewers will be able to witness these lessons at the highest level of the game.

The first time that Australia and England formally met on the cricket field was in Melbourne, back in 1877.

Australia won by 45, a margin that was exactly matched a century later in the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where Australia once again got the better of England.

In the 325 tests that have been played between the two nations, Australia has won 130, England has won 106 and they have drawn 89.

The Ashes will take place between the 23 November 2017 and 8 January 2018.

Also read: Golf: burning calories, socialising & doing business

Image source :

Japanese firm gives non-smoking staff an extra six days holiday

6 days extra holiday 2

A Japanese firm has given non-smoking employees an extra six days holiday a year to compensate for cigarette breaks.

As a non-smoker, you might find it a little unfair when some of your fellow employees break away from work a few times a day to get their nicotine fix.

If smokers are allowed short cigarette breaks at various times through the workday, should nonsmoking employees get the same perk?

Even better than a few short breaks a day – Japanese Marketing firm Piala Inc has introduced a new paid leave allowance after non-smokers complained that they were working more than their colleagues who smoked.

Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesman for the Piala Inc, said: “One of our non-smoking staff put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems.”

The company’s CEO Takao Asuka responded to this suggestion by giving non-smoking employees extra time off.

Mr Asuka hopes that the scheme will act as an incentive for the staff to quit smoking.

In recent months, tougher anti-smoking regulations have been implemented across Japan to reduce the number of smokers.

Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike has made plans to ban smoking in public spaces across the Japanese capital ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

However, this proposal is likely to face strong opposition from pro-smoking politicians, restaurateurs and cigarette manufacturing giant Japan Tobacco, which is one third government-owned and paid the state £530m in dividends in 2015.

Japan is ranked at the bottom of the World Health Organisation’s list in anti-smoking regulations according to the type of public places entirely smoke-free and around 18 per cent of the Japanese population are smokers.

Also read: Smoking Breaks cost businesses £8.4bn


Image source: Independent

Connected cars: transforming the automotive industry


Connected car technologies are transforming the automotive sector, for both industry players and consumers alike.

The vehicle of today has the computing power of 20 computers, featuring 100 million lines of programming codes, and processes as much as 25 gigabytes of data an hour.

Unlike before where automotive digital technology focused on optimising a vehicle’s internal functions, attention is now moving towards developing a car’s potential to connect with the outside world and improve the in-car experience.

This is the connected car — a vehicle that can optimise its own operation and maintenance. The car can also control the convenience and comfort of passengers through onboard sensors and Internet connectivity.

It’s estimated that the sizable increase in connected cars will increase the value of the global market for connectivity components and services to €170 billion by 2020 from just €30 billion today.

Harman, a company long known for its high-end stereo equipment, is working with Samsung to make sure even more vehicles get connected.

“There will be more than 200 million connected vehicles on the road around the world by 2020,” said Shewchuk, a spokesman for Harman International.

The rapid acceleration of connectivity has the ability to change the competitive landscape, with companies from the software and telecommunications sectors already entering the automotive market

A report by McKinsey found that 13 per cent of car buyers are no longer willing to consider a new vehicle without Internet access, and more than a quarter already prioritise connectivity above features like engine power and fuel efficiency.

However, consumers are still unsure about digital safety and data privacy with an average of 37 per cent of respondents saying that they would not consider a connected car.

The below visual shows the concerns new-car buyers have when it comes to data privacy.

connected cars

While the future of the technology-enabled car points towards ever-greater connectivity, companies will face both hard and delicate decisions in the coming years.

Also read: Uber removes self-driving cars from San Francisco roads